PORTLAND -- Some employers are now asking applicants for their Facebook passwords which brings up a slew of questions like: Is it legal? Is it ethical?
"Facebook is a rich vein of information about the employee that gives far more than some background check. This is a way to get a good feel for the person," said Dr. Henry Drummonds who teaches labor and employment law at Lewis and Clark Law School.
He said he's not surprised employers are asking for Facebook passwords but he breaks it down like this: Is it legal? Technically. Should it be? Probably not.
"I think that it does go too far. Younger people certainly believe that their Facebook postings are private, and in that context, this is an area where the law should evolve," he said.
Drummonds said giving your password is very different than giving your Social Security number or even a drug test when applying.
"That's an identifier, where Facebook postings, that's bearing your soul," he said.
Asking for a candidate's password has become prevalent among public agencies, like positions for police officers or 9-1-1 dispatchers. But even companies that don't ask have taken other steps, such as asking applicants to friend human resource managers or to log in to a company computer during an interview.
"But does that make it OK? Where do we draw the line about what a prospective employer should be able to find out about us?" asked the associate director of ACLU Oregon, Jann Carson.
She said we should all draw the line here, if not sooner.
"I think that's going too far. It not only gives someone access to what you've put on there, but also everyone that's in your social circle without their knowledge," Carson said.
In an economy like this, can you really ask those like unemployed tech engineer Neils Williams to say no?
"What's personal is personal and I like to have my social like separate from work," Williams said.
But if it were a high paying job he said, "I'd rather have a job than privacy, I guess."
Questions have been raised about the legality of the practice, which is also the focus of proposed legislation in Illinois and Maryland that would forbid public agencies from asking for access to social networks.